Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Kenyan intellectual and rights activist, Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, yesterday, implored Nigerian leaders to not only memorialise the life and times of former strongman of Kwara politics, the late Dr. Olusola Saraki, but also exhibit his “basket of good deeds”.
Similarly, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad, described Saraki’s style of politics as worthy of emulation.
Lumumba and Sultan spoke during the 10th memorial lecture for the politician, who died in 2012.
Lumumba, who was guest speaker, said, “Saraki was present on this earth. He had his time and he is gone. We are all gathered here today to remember him and his basket of deeds. It would appear to me that his baskets of good deeds outweighs his basket of bad deeds.”
Lumumba imagined that Saraki in heaven was now asking Nigerians, “it is 10 years since I left, where are the leaders? How have they served and is also asking Nigerians how have you been served?
“The great Saraki is asking the followers, have you demanded and the followers whether they have been served, just as he asked for the unity of those who are seeking to do good.”
The don, known for his oratory skills, while telling the story of the shepherds leading and protecting their cattle from elements, said leading human beings is entirely different.
“You may mislead them, but remember that there is the day of reckoning. History has demonstrated that men can rise when they are misled,” he said.
Lumumba recalled with nostalgia the enthusiasm that heralded independence in Africa and how African leaders, like Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Samora Machel, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Abdel Nasser, denied themselves of material gains and fought for independence. He regretted that this was no longer the case with many leaders of Africa and Nigeria today.
“Kaunda had only $5,000 dollars when he died. That is what current politicians spend on breakfast. We are suffering from deficit of leadership,” he said.
Taking a tour of Africa, he quoted Chinua Achebe’s “The Trouble With Nigeria,” and asked whether the continent was at peace and quiet.
“If Nigeria is not at peace, Africa will never be at peace,” he emphasised.
Lumumba said although the country had some of the best professionals in the world, it was tainted with the e-fraud syndrome of “yahoo boys”, adding that Nigerians are present everywhere in the world.
“Can it, with its billion dollars investment capability, which can afford a trillion dollar gross domestic product (GDP) realise its potential?” he asked.
Lamenting the continent and Nigeria’s mortality rate, hunger, failing institutions, educational backwardness, and dearth of amenities, he submitted that the politics and economies of Africa “is controlled by others from other civilisations.”
Suggesting that true and reliable leadership must have a knowledgeable followership, he said, “Instead, African leaders have now assigned the question of educating their citizens to NGOs financed abroad and other civilisations.
“He who pays the piper pays the due. African followership is built from outside. Africans will never realise their potential until those in leadership instil what is right in the minds of the citizens, shun ethnicism and religious bigotry.
Lumumba stated, “I look forward to when leaders and followers in Africa will realise that it is not for us to fight for God but that the nature of the God they serve fights for us.
“Exorcise the ghosts of ethnicity, poverty, ignorance and selfishness. Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
He added, “Nigerian leaders must be in front to serve and never to be served.”
He said the country was blessed with a critical mass of followers, whom he insisted must be knowledgeable.
Historicising the enviable roles African leaders played to disentangle the continent from colonial rule, he regretted that “the colonialists are yet to leave”.
Lumumba lamented that African leaders were not visible in the international arena, where important decisions about humanity are taken.
He said, “When G7, G20, and the UN congregate, there are no African leaders. Where are the pillars in Africa? What was the leadership before we were rudely disrupted? We had traditional rulers. Where are they now? What do we expect from them? Pre-colonial Africa was forgotten and mimicry of colonial leadership adopted.
“Britain created the Commonwealth of Nations headed by the British monarch. This is neo-colonialism used to massage the ego of Africans. Through this they continue to control and manipulate us. France did same through the idea of Francophone Africa. In as much as African leaders try to turnaround our fortunes, these efforts are being torpedoed by external influence.
“Nigeria is an artificial entity. There is no Nigerian in the sense in which there is a Dutch or a Finnish. In order to be a leader in Africa, African leaders must be their own among their people. If Africa were to succeed, the tribes must die.”
He said, quoting extensively, Machel, “Tribalism is a mosaic used to divide the people,” while advocating a role for traditional rulers in the scheme of leadership.
“What was the leadership like before we were rudely disrupted? We had traditional rulers. Where are they now? What do we expect from them? Pre-colonial Africa has been forgotten. Instead, a mimicry of colonial leadership has been adopted.”
Sultan of Sokoto, on his part, said the lecture and the one held by his alma mater, Barewa Old Boys Association (BOBA), recently, were not a coincidence; “they come at a time when our country is shopping for a new leadership.
“If you need good leadership, you must have good followership and vice versa.”
The sultan added, “Leaders must be told the truth. Conscience is an open wound, only the truth can heal it,” quoting Sheikh Usmanu Danfodio.
He prayed that leaders present at the lecture would take the message with them while campaigning, urging them to campaign honestly.
“And when you win, you do justice to the people of the country,” he said.
Scion of the Saraki dynasty and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the occasion was a national platform to address issues, such as the philosophies, ideals, goals and aspirations of his late father, whom he described as “passionate about politics.”
He explained that the deceased never took decisions without consulting his followers.
He urged a solemn observation of the lessons of his father’s life and expressed happiness at how Nigerians set aside partisan politics to attend the lecture, hoping that the lessons learnt would permeate the society.
The lecture was attended by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; ministers of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development; science and technology; environment; and power.
Others were Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vice presidential candidate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; Chairman of the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCO), Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom; Director General of the APCO, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; and PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu.
Other prominent Nigerians at the occasion were Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State and his Kebbi State counterpart, Atiku Bagudu.
Present also were Chairman of THISDAY and Arise News, Nduka Obaigbrna; former governor of Delta State, James Ibori; former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah; former Senate President, Pius Anyim; and Timi Alaibe, among others.